More than 60 per cent of Australians are overweight or obese – that’s around 11.2 million people.
And according to Medibank’s Better Health Index, our mean body mass index (BMI) has risen from 27.04 in 2007-08 to 27.19 in 2014-15, with both scores falling into the ‘overweight’ category.
It’s well known that excess weight, especially obesity, is a major risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
So it’s not surprising that many are turning to surgery as an answer - in 2007-08 around 17,000 Australians had weight loss surgery (also known as bariatric or obesity procedures).
We look at some common weight loss procedures, how they work and who should consider them, as well as life after weight loss surgery.
Do I qualify for weight loss surgery?
If you need to lose weight, lifestyle changes like exercise and diet should always be the first option (and if you need some tips, be sure to check out some of our great be.magazine content).
Surgery should be a last resort for those who are very overweight. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends surgery for people with a BMI of more than 40, or more than 35 for people with obesity-related health conditions, for example, type 2 diabetes.
Even then, those considering surgery should think carefully about the risks of obesity as opposed to the chance of success and possible side effects of surgery.
Ultimately, you need to consult with your doctor about whether weight loss surgery is suitable for you. They will take into account your BMI, your efforts to lose weight by other means, and your ability to perform daily tasks.
Common weight loss surgeries and how they work
There are three common types of weight loss procedures; lap band, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery.
1. Lap band surgery
During lap band surgery (also known as gastric banding) an inflatable band is placed around the top part of your stomach. The band slows the entry of food to the main part of your stomach, making you feel full after eating a small amount of food.
A port with a small tube that joins to the inflatable band is placed from the under the skin of your abdomen so the band can be easily adjusted.
The procedure is done under general anaesthetic using keyhole surgery.
After surgery, you'll need to visit your doctor to have the band adjusted to the size that works for you. It’s done by adding or removing salt water through the small tube. You don't need any anaesthesia for the adjustment.